Art of Accounting: How to manage an accounting practice graduate seminar

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Later this month, I will start teaching a graduate seminar at Baruch College on how to manage an accounting practice. I am very excited about this and am developing material that will be used as a reference source for the students. This will be the third course I will be teaching at Baruch which also has special meaning for me since I am a Baruch alumnus.

During COVID, I taught two courses on Zoom for Fairleigh Dickinson University and two at Baruch College. Like everyone, I adapted to the Zoom environment and, while I missed the interaction with these very bright students, I did not miss the commute. When I was offered this course at Baruch, I was told it had to be in the classroom. I immediately accepted, as practical management is something that is near and dear to me.

I also look forward to being back in the classroom and will manage the commute. Previously I’ve taught seven other courses at FDU, making 11 different college and graduate courses I’ve taught, many of them numerous times.

This seminar is a first-ever endeavor by Baruch’s accounting department and I am creating the course curriculum. I’ve written and presented books, articles, podcasts, webinars and live presentations on practice management.

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Ed Mendlowitz sitting on a bench next to a sculpture of Bernard Baruch at the school in March 2020, the last week he was in Manhattan before the COVID lockdown.

What I am doing is organizing all my previous material in an orderly manner to teach this course along with many new things. I will be including sections on how to start an accounting practice, pricing methods, staffing, client service management, niche specialization, managing tax season, new services, commoditization of the work and not the services, marketing and business development, partner and owner functions , time management, practice administration, the future of public accounting, strategic and succession planning, and exit strategies. I will also show how to apply this information to clients’ non-accounting businesses.

Some of what I want to do is introduce ways that would get students thinking about when they would own their accounting practices. I’ve developed many scenarios that challenge conventional thinking and will put it out to the class for discussion and analysis. I also plan on distributing workbooks each week on the subject matters we cover in class. The following is some of what we will discuss:

  • Time sheets as a management, and not a billing, tool;
  • Time vs. value pricing and 18 other ways to determine what to charge;
  • My newest tax return review method that has never been described by me;
  • SmartProof multi-use worksheets;
  • Why hiring inexperienced staff will make you richer and help you provide better service to your clients than hiring experienced staff;
  • My 30:30 train to do and not to teach technique that provides accelerated staff development;
  • How to WOW clients at every meeting;
  • Social media benefits and ills;
  • How to replace time draining unfocused CPE;
  • My top marketing and networking technique;
  • The No. 1 feature clients value most about their accountant;
  • Adopting the McDonald’s model;
  • Embracing Amazon’s artificial intelligence in your practice;
  • Managing your day and not your time;
  • Why you should overservice your worst clients;
  • The importance of a client’s shoe box;
  • Benefits of working virtually with the person sitting next to you in your office;
  • How and why to develop a niche and why not to;
  • The practical growth technique of doing as little work as possible for your clients;
  • Turning your clients into a sales force;
  • How to be all things to all clients; spirit,
  • How I only had to pay $50 for something I was willing to pay $10,000 for, and what this means to how I now price my services so I get that $10,000 and not $50.

This seems like a lot and it is, but I am very excited about teaching this course. I pretty much have each week’s three-hour session scripted and can’t wait to get started.
Note that many of these topics were described in columns here and some new ones will find their way into future columns. Running a practice is difficult and challenging, but also exciting, stimulating and very satisfying. I suggest you review this list and pick one or two items you could reexamine in your practice. Sort of like a self-evaluation.

I will keep you posted as the semester progresses. Also, if you are thinking about teaching a college or graduate course, contact me for any help I could provide.

Do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with your practice management questions or about engagements you might not be able to perform.

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